The federal agency that enforces employment discrimination laws has launched an investigation into Hollywood's hiring practices as it relates to female directors, the American Civil Liberties Union confirmed Wednesday.
The confirmation comes roughly a year after the ACLU sent letters to the federal government detailing "blatant and rampant discrimination" in Hollywood.
"ACLU SoCal and the ACLU Women's Rights Project are pleased that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs gave careful consideration to our findings and responded by launching a wide-ranging and well-resourced investigation into the industry's hiring practices," Melissa Goodman, director of the ACLU of Southern California's LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project, said in a statement. "We are encouraged by the scope of the government's process and are hopeful that the government will be moving to a more targeted phase."
A spokesperson for the EEOC told BuzzFeed News the agency has had discussions with the ACLU about its data and conclusions, but federal law does not permit officials to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
In May 2015, the ACLU sent letters to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the EEOC, and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
The letters detailed what the ACLU said was widespread gender bias against women directors and asked for an investigation into why so few are hired as directors, especially since roughly the same number of men and women are graduating from film schools.
Through studies and interviews, the ACLU concluded that women are highly underrepresented as directors in film and television. In 2014, women directed just 7% of the 250 top-grossing films. And just 1.9% of directors for the 100 top-grossing films of 2013 and 2014 were women, the civil rights group found.
Lenora Lapidus, director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, told BuzzFeed News the organization has since been working with federal officials to investigate discriminatory hiring practices.
Last year, BuzzFeed News conducted its own analysis of television's most popular shows and the results underscored the ACLU's findings.
Of 1,816 television episodes examined by BuzzFeed News, 225 were directed by women — or about 12%.
The ACLU also interviewed several female directors who shared stories of being told "we don't hire women," or "we tried hiring a woman once." Last year, BuzzFeed News spoke to women directors who shared similar experiences.
"There's an assumption that hiring a woman is a risk," director Angela Robinson told BuzzFeed News at the time.
Shortly after the letters were sent last year, the EEOC interviewed many of the women who participated in the ACLU's analysis, Lapidus said. So far, the EEOC has interviewed more than 100 people with knowledge of Hollywood's hiring practices, she added,
"We are encouraged by all of the work they've done," Lapidus said. "It is time to change the 'old boy' network that has ruled Hollywood forever. We need more of women, people of color, and the LGBT community. We need those voices and visions out there creating cultural content that influences our society."
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Mary Ann Georgantopoulos at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.